TUCSON, Ariz. – The Wildcats’ top-two playmakers didn’t take the field in the first half Saturday night, but the Bruins could only squeeze out a one-point lead.
UCLA football (1-3, 1-0 Pac-12) leads Arizona (2-1, 0-0) 7-6 at the half in Tucson. Grant Gunnell started at quarterback for the Wildcats in place of Khalil Tate, who was ruled out for the game prior to kickoff with a hamstring injury. Running back J.J. Taylor also has not taken a snap.
Gunnell started the opening drive with two completions for 31 yards, but the Bruin defense held its ground and forced a punt.
One week after throwing for over 500 yards against Washington State, sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson started 0-for-3 on UCLA’s first drive of the night. He scrambled twice for 14 and 26 yards and the drive ended with a two-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior Matt Lynch, who made the switch from quarterback to tight end in spring camp.
That touchdown put UCLA up 7-0 and started a string of six-straight completions for Thompson-Robinson.
Arizona made it to midfield again on the following drive, but a chase-down tackle and pass breakup by senior linebacker Krys Barnes forced another punt.
UCLA got the ball back and moved it down to its own 36, but redshirt senior running back Joshua Kelley got stuffed at the line for no gain on 4th-and-1. The Bruins’ defense held again and forced a Wildcat field goal attempt on the first play of the second quarter, but kicker Lucas Havrisik pushed it wide right to keep the Bruins ahead by a touchdown.
Seven plays and 34 yards later, Thompson-Robinson looked to his right and threw it right to Arizona linebacker Lorenzo Burns, who picked it off and returned it to the Wildcats’ 45.
Arizona got inside the 10 after forcing the turnover, but after an offensive holding and two overthrows by Gunnell in the left corner of the endzone force another field goal attempt. Havrisik’s second attempt – this one from 40 yards – was good.
UCLA went three-and-out on its next two possessions and Arizona tacked on another field goal with just over three minutes remaining in the second quarter. A defensive stop by the Bruins gave them the chance to go 80 yards in 1:11, but Thompson-Robinson’s fourth-down attempt from the 50-yard line fell incomplete.
Gunnell got his chance at a 50-yard Hail Mary as well, but the clock ran out after a 34-yard completion to running back Michael Wiley.
Tate’s replacement attempted 29 passes in the first two quarters, completing 17 for 170 yards.
Thompson-Robinson, meanwhile, ended the half with 89 yards on 8-of-16 passing, in addition to 54 yards on the ground. Kelley led UCLA with 11 attempts, but he added just 34 rushing yards.